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Coal ashThis week’s top laugh-out-loud headline comes directly from the office of Governor McCrory, which had the chutzpah to send out a news release yesterday afternoon with the following headline: “Governor McCrory Directs Duke Energy to Bring Coal Ash Spill Under Control.”

What? The Duke people hadn’t considered doing this during the four days since the spill commenced? And now that their former mid-level P.R. staffer has gotten around to speaking out, they’re going to act? Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

Earth to Governor McCrory: How about issuing a directive that might actually have an impact — something like telling your DENR Secretary to stop eviscerating his department and its mission and telling your buddies over at the General Assembly that you’re no longer going to be a party to their ongoing efforts to sell, develop, pave, frack and poison every square inch of land, every gallon of water and every breath of fresh air in our rapidly deteriorating natural environment?

For more info on the Dan River disaster check out this slide show from the good folks at the N.C. Conservation Network.

In good news on the government accountability front this week, Governor McCrory and Commerce Secretary Decker put the brakes on privatizing the state’s economic development efforts, postponing the creation of the new nonprofit development corporation until the start of the new fiscal year in July. Ostensibly, the move is intended to make sure the transition to this new public-private partnership goes as smoothly as possible, given the catastrophic mistakes and complete lack of accountability suffered by other states when trying this approach. And the legislature would like to weigh in as well, given that the authorizing bill for all this never passed last year.

So it’s worth taking advantage of this pause in the rush to privatization to ensure that the state’s economic development efforts remain both effective and accountable. Fortunately, North Carolina has a long tradition of accountability in business development, a point made in a well-timed study released this week by national economic development watchdog Good Jobs First, and this is a tradition the state should continue.

According to the report, the Tarheel State has the third best accountability system in the country in terms of monitoring and disclosing whether companies live up to their promises of job creation.

This is a tradition that the state needs to continue and extend to the activities of the new development corporation, including the private sector donors and the proposed closing fund.

 

Governor McCrory’s Economic Development Board released it’s long-awaited strategic plan for the state’s economic development efforts this afternoon. Here is the Budget and Tax Center statement in response:

We all want to create jobs and grow an economy that works for everyone in North Carolina, and the best way to make sure that happens is to focus on raising family incomes after a decade of decline. While the Governor’s plan includes a number of useful proposals, there is an important contradiction between the plan’s call for additional tax cuts and the resources necessary to achieve the goals related to workforce development, innovation/entrepreneurship, and rural prosperity. These goals will be impossible unless the state provides adequate investment in higher education, community colleges, and rural community development initiatives. Funding for these initiatives are already well below where they were before the recession started in 2008, so it’s unlikely the state will be able to make significant progress on achieving these goals given the steep revenue losses resulting from last year’s tax cuts and any future round of tax reductions.

 

mccrory1106It’s hard to say yet whether this will become “Salarygate” Part Deux or Trois but whatever you call it, Gov. McCrory seems to have taken  another remarkably tin-eared step today with his special announcement that more than 3,200 state employees in “high-demand” fields will get pay raises out of a “salary adjustment fund.” 

Sorry to tell you Governor, but there are a hell of a lot of other hard-working state employees out there who are in “high demand” — high demand from the mushrooming number of students they teach each day, the fast-growing number of potholes they fill, bathrooms they clean and prison inmates and mental health clients they supervise and serve.

The Guv may claim that these raises are a response to “market forces” but as we found out from the public’s overwhelming reaction to the original Salarygate, at some point common sense ought to trump the “genius” of the market. Unfortunately, this appears to be yet another in a long list of incidents in which the McCrory team is demonstrating that it possesses very little of this precious commodity.

John SkvarlaOne of the signature “accomplishments” of conservative state leadership in North Carolina in recent years has been the steady and ongoing rollback of state environmental protection laws and regulations. This is not to imply that the state has ever done enough — even under past General Assemblies and governors — to truly protect our ever-more-fragile air, land and water, but it’s also clear that things have gotten much, much worse in recent years.

Whether it’s the efforts to deny climate change and sea-level rise, fast-track fracking and off-shore oil drilling, stop efforts to clean up Jordan Lake, build artificial sea walls along the coast, roll back scores of rules and regulations, pack various commissions and boards with advocates hostile to environmental protection, limit land preservation, slash funding or just defund, demoralize, break up and change the mission statement of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources itself, the conservative agenda has been (and continues to be) a long and ambitious one.

Fortunately, one of the chief architects of the effort, DENR Secretary John Skvarla, has some advice for his agency employees who may feel a sense of discouragement at their increasingly disfavored status: Don’t worry, be happy! Read More